Mercenaries 'Send It' For Fallen Friend

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You could hear the hits from the parking lot on Saturday, April 27, at the inaugural Gavin Twitty Memorial Game between the Mercenaries Rugby Club and the Springfield Celts. 

It's something Twitty, who passed away in November 2018, would have loved, whether it be when he played football for Hillsboro High School or rugby, his new love, for the Mercenaries Rugby Club.

Twitty lived life like he played sports, at full tilt, ready to "send it." And it was that intensity and enthusiasm that made him an instant favorite of his teammates, and a thorn in the side of his opponents.

"I believe he faced the Celts four times in his career and they knew how much of an athlete he was," said Jake Petri, Twitty's Mercenaries teammate and former wrestling coach. "It was pretty cool hearing them say how not fun it was to play against him because of his intensity and hitting. It really showed the family aspect rugby has."

That family aspect has extended to Twitty's real family, who have become some of the team's biggest supporters. 

"(Gavin's dad) has really become a big supporter. I believe he and his wife have come to three of our games this year," Petri said of Gavin's parents, Scott and Jennifer. "It’s been great seeing them and being able to talk about Gavin with them."

"It's great. Gavin just had a passion for rugby and he'd be honored that they are doing this for him," Scott Twitty said about the game.

He'd have loved the way the game played out too, except that his Mercenaries were on the short end of a 24-23 decision.

"I know Gavin was proud of our team's performance," Petri said. "Everyone came to play hard and hit hard. It showed in the game that we were the more physical team. We just couldn’t get it done on the scoreboard.  Andrew Ticona had huge shoes to fill at 15 (Twitty's position) and did a great job."

Jacob Dixon, who was a sophomore at Carlinville Twitty's senior year at Hillsboro, and his brother Ethan both scored tries for the Mercenaries, while Nick Sattler earned a penalty try when he was high tackled on a breakaway and Petri scored a penalty kick and two conversions.

While the play harkened Twitty's memory, there were plenty of other reminders of the young man that touched so many people's lives.

Hillsboro football coach Aaron Duff brought Twitty's parents his old football jersey and a plaque will be placed at Hillsboro High School in his memory. Shirts, koozies and bracelets were also on sale to raise money for the Gavin Twitty Rugby Scholarship.

"We really want to thank the Twitty family for being there and supporting us," Petri said. "We really appreciate everyone who bought our memorial shirts, koozies and bracelets. Another big thanks to Jessie Davis, Jennifer Davis and Jamie Petri for getting those made."

Petri said that the Mercenaries plan to have the memorial game every year and they are adding a new award to their year-end banquet, the Gavin Twitty True MERC award, which will be handed out by his family.

It all goes to the effort to keep alive the memory of a person was truly unforgettable to his family and friends.

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